Adam Chrenko

1. March 2024

Translation vs. Transcreation: What’s the Difference

Translation is like your strict dad who wants to know whether you finished your chemistry homework. Sometimes it helps to keep you on track; but sometimes you need a bit more freedom. The cool uncle is there for all the fun stuff – that’s transcreation, your gateway to the language amusement park. Learn more about these two ‘relatives’ and make sure you pick the best service for your needs.

You know translation all too well. But have you heard of its cool uncle – transcreation?

What sets them apart? And which one should you choose?



Curious what this difference looks like in real world? Get ready to go from dull to dazzling with transcreation in our next article.


Translation focuses on the information and form. It aims to convey your original content in the target language, in the same form, without adding or omitting anything. Readers, prospects, target audience, or clients come second – after the information.

Transcreation focuses on the effect and emotion. The final copy may have a completely different form than the original, but it aims to evoke the same emotion in the target language. The overall idea, style, and feel of the text are extremely important. It’s focused on the reader, the target audience, your potential or existing client.

We may often alter the meaning a bit (or a lot) – if it helps us achieve the desired effect or reaction. We may use an idiom instead of a neutral phrase – or the other way around. Omit or add ideas that are in line with the tone. In translation, shifting, adding, or altering the original in any significant way is a cardinal sin.

Starting point

Both translation and transcreation start with the same five letters, but that’s about as much as they have in common. What about the process?

Translation starts and ends with the source text. Translators make sure their rendering is true to the original. The same goes for the proofreader and the QA. If there are no mistakes and the meaning is preserved, translation is good to go.

Main problem: What does the original mean?

Transcreation goes deeper than the source text. We must consider the company or brand and their image, their reputation, their desired positioning, the target market or audience, their preferred tone of voice, etc. If the target copy feels right, then it’s probably ready for the market. All this info and more should be included in creative brief.

Main problem: What do I want the reader to do? What action do I want them to take? What/How do I want them to think about my brand, product, or service? Who am I talking to?

Common questions a copywriter might encounter during the process:

Am I talking to young people? Older people? Any particular group in specific?
Should I use specific vernacular or slang?
Will they understand this or that metaphor? Or do I need to use something else?
Is an idiom here the best device I can use?…


Translation has a single purpose: To inform and be mistake-free.

Creative translation always looks at the purpose of the text above all elseWhat do I want my prospects to do? Download? Try? Click? Buy? Call? Keep reading?

Whenever you are trying to persuade someone to do something with your texts – it’s a copy; and as such it must be treated with the help of a copywriter as a transcreation.

Easy rule of thumb is once the original was written as a copy, by a professional copywriter – you need a transcreation. Translation won’t do; it’s limiting. Unless you want a butchered, awkward, and clunky version – which is, by all means, true to the original. Just doesn’t sit well with your target audience. And doesn’t sell your products or services.

Another good way to determine whether you need a creative translation would be to ask yourself:

If the answer’s yes, get started on the brief.

I’m Adam – a project manager with a flair for creative translation and copywriting. I’ve always dreamt of being a writer – and, in a way, Translata is helping to make my dream come true. I like to help colleagues with various translation and copywriting challenges. My favourite topics include marcom, finance, banking, and investments. When I’m not reading Tolkien or translating ads for fun, you can find me playing tennis, hiking, or spending quality time with friends and family.